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Chapter 5 Blood Type

Chapter 5 Blood Type

 I made my way to English in a daze. I didn't even realize when I firstwalked in that class had already started.

  "Thank you for joining us, Miss Swan," Mr. Mason said in a disparagingtone.

  I flushed and hurried to my seat.

  It wasn't till class ended that I realized Mike wasn't sitting in hisusual seat next to me. I felt a twinge of guilt. But he and Eric both metme at the door as usual, so I figured I wasn't totally unforgiven. Mikeseemed to become more himself as we walked, gaining enthusiasm as hetalked about the weather report for this weekend. The rain was supposedto take a minor break, and so maybe his beach trip would be possible. Itried to sound eager, to make up for disappointing him yesterday. It washard; rain or no rain, it would still only be in the high forties, if wewere lucky.

  The rest of the morning passed in a blur. It was difficult to believethat I hadn't just imagined what Edward had said, and the way his eyeshad looked. Maybe it was just a very convincing dream that I'd confusedwith reality. That seemed more probable than that I really appealed tohim on any level.

  So I was impatient and frightened as Jessica and I entered the cafeteria.

  I wanted to see his face, to see if he'd gone back to the cold,indifferent person I'd known for the last several weeks. Or if, by somemiracle, I'd really heard what I thought I'd heard this morning. Jessicababbled on and on about her dance plans — Lauren and Angela had asked theother boys and they were all going together — completely unaware of myinattention.

  Disappointment flooded through me as my eyes unerringly focused on histable. The other four were there, but he was absent. Had he gone home? Ifollowed the still-babbling Jessica through the line, crushed. I'd lostmy appetite — I bought nothing but a bottle of lemonade. I just wanted togo sit down and sulk.

  "Edward Cullen is staring at you again," Jessica said, finally breakingthrough my abstraction with his name. "I wonder why he's sitting alonetoday."My head snapped up. I followed her gaze to see Edward, smiling crookedly,staring at me from an empty table across the cafeteria from where heusually sat. Once he'd caught my eye, he raised one hand and motionedwith his index finger for me to join him. As I stared in disbelief, hewinked.

  "Does he mean you?" Jessica asked with insulting astonishment in hervoice.

  "Maybe he needs help with his Biology homework," I muttered for herbenefit. "Um, I'd better go see what he wants."I could feel her staring after me as I walked away.

  When I reached his table, I stood behind the chair across from him,unsure.

  "Why don't you sit with me today?" he asked, smiling.

   I sat down automatically, watching him with caution. He was stillsmiling. It was hard to believe that someone so beautiful could be real.

  I was afraid that he might disappear in a sudden puff of smoke, and Iwould wake up.

  He seemed to be waiting for me to say something.

  "This is different," I finally managed.

  "Well…" He paused, and then the rest of the words followed in a rush. "Idecided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly."I waited for him to say something that made sense. The seconds ticked by.

  "You know I don't have any idea what you mean," I eventually pointed out.

  "I know." He smiled again, and then he changed the subject. "I think yourfriends are angry with me for stealing you.""They'll survive." I could feel their stares boring into my back.

  "I may not give you back, though," he said with a wicked glint in hiseyes.

  I gulped.

  He laughed. "You look worried.""No," I said, but, ridiculously, my voice broke. "Surprised, actually…what brought all this on?""I told you — I got tired of trying to stay away from you. So I'm givingup." He was still smiling, but his ocher eyes were serious.

  "Giving up?" I repeated in confusion.

  "Yes — giving up trying to be good. I'm just going to do what I want now,and let the chips fall where they may." His smile faded as he explained,and a hard edge crept into his voice.

  "You lost me again."The breathtaking crooked smile reappeared.

  "I always say too much when I'm talking to you — that's one of theproblems.""Don't worry — I don't understand any of it," I said wryly.

  "I'm counting on that.""So, in plain English, are we friends now?""Friends…" he mused, dubious.

  "Or not," I muttered.

  He grinned. "Well, we can try, I suppose. But I'm warning you now thatI'm not a good friend for you." Behind his smile, the warning was real.

  "You say that a lot," I noted, trying to ignore the sudden trembling inmy stomach and keep my voice even.

  "Yes, because you're not listening to me. I'm still waiting for you tobelieve it. If you're smart, you'll avoid me.""I think you've made your opinion on the subject of my intellect clear,too." My eyes narrowed.

  He smiled apologetically.

   "So, as long as I'm being… not smart, we'll try to be friends?" Istruggled to sum up the confusing exchange.

  "That sounds about right."I looked down at my hands wrapped around the lemonade bottle, not surewhat to do now.

  "What are you thinking?" he asked curiously.

  I looked up into his deep gold eyes, became befuddled, and, as usual,blurted out the truth.

  "I'm trying to figure out what you are."His jaw tightened, but he kept his smile in place with some effort.

  "Are you having any luck with that?" he asked in an offhand tone.

  "Not too much," I admitted.

  He chuckled. "What are your theories?"I blushed. I had been vacillating during the last month between BruceWayne and Peter Parker. There was no way I was going to own up to that.

  "Won't you tell me?" he asked, tilting his head to one side with ashockingly tempting smile.

  I shook my head. "Too embarrassing.""That's really frustrating, you know," he complained.

  "No," I disagreed quickly, my eyes narrowing, "I can't imagine why thatwould be frustrating at all — just because someone refuses to tell youwhat they're thinking, even if all the while they're making crypticlittle remarks specifically designed to keep you up at night wonderingwhat they could possibly mean… now, why would that be frustrating?"He grimaced.

  "Or better," I continued, the pent-up annoyance flowing freely now, "saythat person also did a wide range of bizarre things — from saving yourlife under impossible circumstances one day to treating you like a pariahthe next, and he never explained any of that, either, even after hepromised. That, also, would be very non-frustrating.""You've got a bit of a temper, don't you?""I don't like double standards."We stared at each other, unsmiling.

  He glanced over my shoulder, and then, unexpectedly, he snickered.

  "What?""Your boyfriend seems to think I'm being unpleasant to you — he'sdebating whether or not to come break up our fight." He snickered again.

  "I don't know who you're talking about," I said frostily. "But I'm sureyou're wrong, anyway.""I'm not. I told you, most people are easy to read.""Except me, of course.""Yes. Except for you." His mood shifted suddenly; his eyes turnedbrooding. "I wonder why that is."I had to look away from the intensity of his stare. I concentrated onunscrewing the lid of my lemonade. I took a swig, staring at the table without seeing it.

  "Aren't you hungry?" he asked, distracted.

  "No." I didn't feel like mentioning that my stomach was already full — ofbutterflies. "You?" I looked at the empty table in front of him.

  "No, I'm not hungry." I didn't understand his expression — it looked likehe was enjoying some private joke.

  "Can you do me a favor?" I asked after a second of hesitation.

  He was suddenly wary. "That depends on what you want.""It's not much," I assured him.

  He waited, guarded but curious.

  "I just wondered… if you could warn me beforehand the next time youdecide to ignore me for my own good. Just so I'm prepared." I looked atthe lemonade bottle as I spoke, tracing the circle of the opening with mypinkie finger.

  "That sounds fair." He was pressing his lips together to keep fromlaughing when I looked up.

  "Thanks.""Then can I have one answer in return?" he demanded.

  "One.""Tell me one theory."Whoops. "Not that one.""You didn't qualify, you just promised one answer," he reminded me.

  "And you've broken promises yourself," I reminded him back.

  "Just one theory — I won't laugh.""Yes, you will." I was positive about that.

  He looked down, and then glanced up at me through his long black lashes,his ocher eyes scorching.

  "Please?" he breathed, leaning toward me.

  I blinked, my mind going blank. Holy crow, how did he do that?

  "Er, what?" I asked, dazed.

  "Please tell me just one little theory." His eyes still smoldered at me.

  "Um, well, bitten by a radioactive spider?" Was he a hypnotist, too? Orwas I just a hopeless pushover?

  "That's not very creative," he scoffed.

  "I'm sorry, that's all I've got," I said, miffed.

  "You're not even close," he teased.

  "No spiders?""Nope.""And no radioactivity?""None." "Dang," I sighed.

  "Kryptonite doesn't bother me, either," he chuckled.

  "You're not supposed to laugh, remember?"He struggled to compose his face.

  "I'll figure it out eventually," I warned him.

  "I wish you wouldn't try." He was serious again.

  "Because… ?""What if I'm not a superhero? What if I'm the bad guy?" He smiledplayfully, but his eyes were impenetrable.

  "Oh," I said, as several things he'd hinted fell suddenly into place. "Isee.""Do you?" His face was abruptly severe, as if he were afraid that he'daccidentally said too much.

  "You're dangerous?" I guessed, my pulse quickening as I intuitivelyrealized the truth of my own words. He was dangerous. He'd been trying totell me that all along.

  He just looked at me, eyes full of some emotion I couldn't comprehend.

  "But not bad," I whispered, shaking my head. "No, I don't believe thatyou're bad.""You're wrong." His voice was almost inaudible. He looked down, stealingmy bottle lid and then spinning it on its side between his fingers. Istared at him, wondering why I didn't feel afraid. He meant what he wassaying — that was obvious. But I just felt anxious, on edge… and, morethan anything else, fascinated. The same way I always felt when I wasnear him.

  The silence lasted until I noticed that the cafeteria was almost empty.

  I jumped to my feet. "We're going to be late.""I'm not going to class today," he said, twirling the lid so fast it wasjust a blur.

  "Why not?""It's healthy to ditch class now and then." He smiled up at me, but hiseyes were still troubled.

  "Well, I'm going," I told him. I was far too big a coward to risk gettingcaught.

  He turned his attention back to his makeshift top. "I'll see you later,then."I hesitated, torn, but then the first bell sent me hurrying out the door— with a last glance confirming that he hadn't moved a centimeter.

  As I half-ran to class, my head was spinning faster than the bottle cap.

  So few questions had been answered in comparison to how many newquestions had been raised. At least the rain had stopped.

  I was lucky; Mr. Banner wasn't in the room yet when I arrived. I settledquickly into my seat, aware that both Mike and Angela were staring at me.

  Mike looked resentful; Angela looked surprised, and slightly awed.

  Mr. Banner came in the room then, calling the class to order. He wasjuggling a few small cardboard boxes in his arms. He put them down onMike's table, telling him to start passing them around the class.

   "Okay, guys, I want you all to take one piece from each box," he said ashe produced a pair of rubber gloves from the pocket of his lab jacket andpulled them on. The sharp sound as the gloves snapped into place againsthis wrists seemed ominous to me. "The first should be an indicator card,"he went on, grabbing a white card with four squares marked on it anddisplaying it. "The second is a four-pronged applicator —" he held upsomething that looked like a nearly toothless hair pick "— and the thirdis a sterile micro-lancet." He held up a small piece of blue plastic andsplit it open. The barb was invisible from this distance, but my stomachflipped.

  "I'll be coming around with a dropper of water to prepare your cards, soplease don't start until I get to you." He began at Mike's table again,carefully putting one drop of water in each of the four squares. "Then Iwant you to carefully prick your finger with the lancet…" He grabbedMike's hand and jabbed the spike into the tip of Mike's middle finger. Ohno. Clammy moisture broke out across my forehead.

  "Put a small drop of blood on each of the prongs." He demonstrated,squeezing Mike's finger till the blood flowed. I swallowed convulsively,my stomach heaving.

  "And then apply it to the card," he finished, holding up the dripping redcard for us to see. I closed my eyes, trying to hear through the ringingin my ears.

  "The Red Cross is having a blood drive in Port Angeles next weekend, so Ithought you should all know your blood type." He sounded proud ofhimself. "Those of you who aren't eighteen yet will need a parent'spermission — I have slips at my desk."He continued through the room with his water drops. I put my cheekagainst the cool black tabletop and tried to hold on to my consciousness.

  All around me I could hear squeals, complaints, and giggles as myclassmates skewered their fingers. I breathed slowly in and out throughmy mouth.

  "Bella, are you all right?" Mr. Banner asked. His voice was close to myhead, and it sounded alarmed.

  "I already know my blood type, Mr. Banner," I said in a weak voice. I wasafraid to raise my head.

  "Are you feeling faint?""Yes, sir," I muttered, internally kicking myself for not ditching when Ihad the chance.

  "Can someone take Bella to the nurse, please?" he called.

  I didn't have to look up to know that it would be Mike who volunteered.

  "Can you walk?" Mr. Banner asked.

  "Yes," I whispered. Just let me get out of here, I thought. I'll crawl.

  Mike seemed eager as he put his arm around my waist and pulled my armover his shoulder. I leaned against him heavily on the way out of theclassroom.

  Mike towed me slowly across campus. When we were around the edge of thecafeteria, out of sight of building four in case Mr. Banner was watching,I stopped.

  "Just let me sit for a minute, please?" I begged.

  He helped me sit on the edge of the walk.

  "And whatever you do, keep your hand in your pocket," I warned. I wasstill so dizzy. I slumped over on my side, putting my cheek against thefreezing, damp cement of the sidewalk, closing my eyes. That seemed tohelp a little.

   "Wow, you're green, Bella," Mike said nervously.

  "Bella?" a different voice called from the distance.

  No! Please let me be imagining that horribly familiar voice.

  "What's wrong — is she hurt?" His voice was closer now, and he soundedupset. I wasn't imagining it. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping to die. Or,at the very least, not to throw up.

  Mike seemed stressed. "I think she's fainted. I don't know what happened,she didn't even stick her finger.""Bella." Edward's voice was right beside me, relieved now. "Can you hearme?""No," I groaned. "Go away."He chuckled.

  "I was taking her to the nurse," Mike explained in a defensive tone, "butshe wouldn't go any farther.""I'll take her," Edward said. I could hear the smile still in his voice.

  "You can go back to class.""No," Mike protested. "I'm supposed to do it."Suddenly the sidewalk disappeared from beneath me. My eyes flew open inshock. Edward had scooped me up in his arms, as easily as if I weighedten pounds instead of a hundred and ten.

  "Put me down!" Please, please let me not vomit on him. He was walkingbefore I was finished talking.

  "Hey!" Mike called, already ten paces behind us.

  Edward ignored him. "You look awful," he told me, grinning.

  "Put me back on the sidewalk," I moaned. The rocking movement of his walkwas not helping. He held me away from his body, gingerly, supporting allmy weight with just his arms — it didn't seem to bother him.

  "So you faint at the sight of blood?" he asked. This seemed to entertainhim.

  I didn't answer. I closed my eyes again and fought the nausea with all mystrength, clamping my lips together.

  "And not even your own blood," he continued, enjoying himself.

  I don't know how he opened the door while carrying me, but it wassuddenly warm, so I knew we were inside.

  "Oh my," I heard a female voice gasp.

  "She fainted in Biology," Edward explained.

  I opened my eyes. I was in the office, and Edward was striding past thefront counter toward the nurse's door. Ms. Cope, the redheaded frontoffice receptionist, ran ahead of him to hold it open. The grandmotherlynurse looked up from a novel, astonished, as Edward swung me into theroom and placed me gently on the crackly paper that covered the brownvinyl mattress on the one cot. Then he moved to stand against the wall asfar across the narrow room as possible. His eyes were bright, excited.

  "She's just a little faint," he reassured the startled nurse. "They'reblood typing in Biology."The nurse nodded sagely. "There's always one." He muffled a snicker.

  "Just lie down for a minute, honey; it'll pass.""I know," I sighed. The nausea was already fading.

  "Does this happen a lot?" she asked.

  "Sometimes," I admitted. Edward coughed to hide another laugh.

  "You can go back to class now," she told him.

  "I'm supposed to stay with her." He said this with such assured authoritythat — even though she pursed her lips — the nurse didn't argue itfurther.

  "I'll go get you some ice for your forehead, dear," she said to me, andthen bustled out of the room.

  "You were right," I moaned, letting my eyes close.

  "I usually am — but about what in particular this time?""Ditching is healthy." I practiced breathing evenly.

  "You scared me for a minute there," he admitted after a pause. His tonemade it sound like he was confessing a humiliating weakness. "I thoughtNewton was dragging your dead body off to bury it in the woods.""Ha ha." I still had my eyes closed, but I was feeling more normal everyminute.

  "Honestly — I've seen corpses with better color. I was concerned that Imight have to avenge your murder.""Poor Mike. I'll bet he's mad.""He absolutely loathes me," Edward said cheerfully.

  "You can't know that," I argued, but then I wondered suddenly if he could.

  "I saw his face — I could tell.""How did you see me? I thought you were ditching." I was almost fine now,though the queasiness would probably pass faster if I'd eaten somethingfor lunch. On the other hand, maybe it was lucky my stomach was empty.

  "I was in my car, listening to a CD." Such a normal response — itsurprised me.

  I heard the door and opened my eyes to see the nurse with a cold compressin her hand.

  "Here you go, dear." She laid it across my forehead. "You're lookingbetter," she added.

  "I think I'm fine," I said, sitting up. Just a little ringing in my ears,no spinning. The mint green walls stayed where they should.

  I could see she was about to make me lie back down, but the door openedjust then, and Ms. Cope stuck her head in.

  "We've got another one," she warned.

  I hopped down to free up the cot for the next invalid.

  I handed the compress back to the nurse. "Here, I don't need this."And then Mike staggered through the door, now supporting a sallow-lookingLee Stephens, another boy in our Biology class. Edward and I drew backagainst the wall to give them room.

   "Oh no," Edward muttered. "Go out to the office, Bella."I looked up at him, bewildered.

  "Trust me — go."I spun and caught the door before it closed, darting out of theinfirmary. I could feel Edward right behind me.

  "You actually listened to me." He was stunned.

  "I smelled the blood," I said, wrinkling my nose. Lee wasn't sick fromwatching other people, like me.

  "People can't smell blood," he contradicted.

  "Well, I can — that's what makes me sick. It smells like rust… and salt."He was staring at me with an unfathomable expression.

  "What?" I asked.

  "It's nothing."Mike came through the door then, glancing from me to Edward. The look hegave Edward confirmed what Edward had said about loathing. He looked backat me, his eyes glum.

  "You look better," he accused.

  "Just keep your hand in your pocket," I warned him again.

  "It's not bleeding anymore," he muttered. "Are you going back to class?""Are you kidding? I'd just have to turn around and come back.""Yeah, I guess… So are you going this weekend? To the beach?" While hespoke, he flashed another glare toward Edward, who was standing againstthe cluttered counter, motionless as a sculpture, staring off into space.

  I tried to sound as friendly as possible. "Sure, I said I was in.""We're meeting at my dad's store, at ten." His eyes flickered to Edwardagain, wondering if he was giving out too much information. His bodylanguage made it clear that it wasn't an open invitation.

  "I'll be there," I promised.

  "I'll see you in Gym, then," he said, moving uncertainly toward the door.

  "See you," I replied. He looked at me once more, his round face slightlypouting, and then as he walked slowly through the door, his shouldersslumped. A swell of sympathy washed over me. I pondered seeing hisdisappointed face again… in Gym.

  "Gym," I groaned.

  "I can take care of that." I hadn't noticed Edward moving to my side, buthe spoke now in my ear. "Go sit down and look pale," he muttered.

  That wasn't a challenge; I was always pale, and my recent swoon had lefta light sheen of sweat on my face. I sat in one of the creaky foldingchairs and rested my head against the wall with my eyes closed. Faintingspells always exhausted me.

  I heard Edward speaking softly at the counter.

  "Ms. Cope?""Yes?" I hadn't heard her return to her desk.

  "Bella has Gym next hour, and I don't think she feels well enough.

   Actually, I was thinking I should take her home now. Do you think youcould excuse her from class?" His voice was like melting honey. I couldimagine how much more overwhelming his eyes would be.

  "Do you need to be excused, too, Edward?" Ms. Cope fluttered. Whycouldn't I do that?

  "No, I have Mrs. Goff, she won't mind.""Okay, it's all taken care of. You feel better, Bella," she called to me.

  I nodded weakly, hamming it up just a bit.

  "Can you walk, or do you want me to carry you again?" With his back tothe receptionist, his expression became sarcastic.

  "I'll walk."I stood carefully, and I was still fine. He held the door for me, hissmile polite but his eyes mocking. I walked out into the cold, fine mistthat had just begun to fall. It felt nice — the first time I'd enjoyedthe constant moisture falling out of the sky — as it washed my face cleanof the sticky perspiration.

  "Thanks," I said as he followed me out. "It's almost worth getting sickto miss Gym.""Anytime." He was staring straight forward, squinting into the rain.

  "So are you going? This Saturday, I mean?" I was hoping he would, thoughit seemed unlikely. I couldn't picture him loading up to carpool with therest of the kids from school; he didn't belong in the same world. Butjust hoping that he might gave me the first twinge of enthusiasm I'd feltfor the outing.

  "Where are you all going, exactly?" He was still looking ahead,expressionless.

  "Down to La Push, to First Beach." I studied his face, trying to read it.

  His eyes seemed to narrow infinitesimally.

  He glanced down at me from the corner of his eye, smiling wryly. "Ireally don't think I was invited."I sighed. "I just invited you.""Let's you and I not push poor Mike any further this week. We don't wanthim to snap." His eyes danced; he was enjoying the idea more than heshould.

  "Mike-schmike." I muttered, preoccupied by the way he'd said "you and I."I liked it more than I should.

  We were near the parking lot now. I veered left, toward my truck.

  Something caught my jacket, yanking me back.

  "Where do you think you're going?" he asked, outraged. He was gripping afistful of my jacket in one hand.

  I was confused. "I'm going home.""Didn't you hear me promise to take you safely home? Do you think I'mgoing to let you drive in your condition?" His voice was still indignant.

  "What condition? And what about my truck?" I complained.

  "I'll have Alice drop it off after school." He was towing me toward hiscar now, pulling me by my jacket. It was all I could do to keep fromfalling backward. He'd probably just drag me along anyway if I did.

  "Let go!" I insisted. He ignored me. I staggered along sideways acrossthe wet sidewalk until we reached the Volvo. Then he finally freed me — Istumbled against the passenger door.

   "You are so pushy!" I grumbled.

  "It's open," was all he responded. He got in the driver's side.

  "I am perfectly capable of driving myself home!" I stood by the car,fuming. It was raining harder now, and I'd never put my hood up, so myhair was dripping down my back.

  He lowered the automatic window and leaned toward me across the seat.

  "Get in, Bella."I didn't answer. I was mentally calculating my chances of reaching thetruck before he could catch me. I had to admit, they weren't good.

  "I'll just drag you back," he threatened, guessing my plan.

  I tried to maintain what dignity I could as I got into his car. I wasn'tvery successful — I looked like a half-drowned cat and my boots squeaked.

  "This is completely unnecessary," I said stiffly.

  He didn't answer. He fiddled with the controls, turning the heater up andthe music down. As he pulled out of the parking lot, I was preparing togive him the silent treatment — my face in full pout mode — but then Irecognized the music playing, and my curiosity got the better of myintentions.

  "Clair de Lune?" I asked, surprised.

  "You know Debussy?" He sounded surprised, too.

  "Not well," I admitted. "My mother plays a lot of classical music aroundthe house — I only know my favorites.""It's one of my favorites, too." He stared out through the rain, lost inthought.

  I listened to the music, relaxing against the light gray leather seat. Itwas impossible not to respond to the familiar, soothing melody. The rainblurred everything outside the window into gray and green smudges. Ibegan to realize we were driving very fast; the car moved so steadily, soevenly, though, I didn't feel the speed. Only the town flashing by gaveit away.

  "What is your mother like?" he asked me suddenly.

  I glanced over to see him studying me with curious eyes.

  "She looks a lot like me, but she's prettier," I said. He raised hiseyebrows. "I have too much Charlie in me. She's more outgoing than I am,and braver. She's irresponsible and slightly eccentric, and she's a veryunpredictable cook. She's my best friend." I stopped. Talking about herwas making me depressed.

  "How old are you, Bella?" His voice sounded frustrated for some reason Icouldn't imagine. He'd stopped the car, and I realized we were atCharlie's house already. The rain was so heavy that I could barely seethe house at all. It was like the car was submerged under a river.

  "I'm seventeen," I responded, a little confused.

  "You don't seem seventeen."His tone was reproachful; it made me laugh.

  "What?" he asked, curious again.

  "My mom always says I was born thirty-five years old and that I get moremiddle-aged every year." I laughed, and then sighed. "Well, someone hasto be the adult." I paused for a second. "You don't seem much like ajunior in high school yourself," I noted.

   He made a face and changed the subject.

  "So why did your mother marry Phil?"I was surprised he would remember the name; I'd mentioned it just once,almost two months ago. It took me a moment to answer.

  "My mother… she's very young for her age. I think Phil makes her feeleven younger. At any rate, she's crazy about him." I shook my head. Theattraction was a mystery to me.

  "Do you approve?" he asked.

  "Does it matter?" I countered. "I want her to be happy… and he is who shewants.""That's very generous… I wonder," he mused.

  "What?""Would she extend the same courtesy to you, do you think? No matter whoyour choice was?" He was suddenly intent, his eyes searching mine.

  "I-I think so," I stuttered. "But she's the parent, after all. It's alittle bit different.""No one too scary then," he teased.

  I grinned in response. "What do you mean by scary? Multiple facialpiercings and extensive tattoos?""That's one definition, I suppose.""What's your definition?"But he ignored my question and asked me another. "Do you think that Icould be scary?" He raised one eyebrow, and the faint trace of a smilelightened his face.

  I thought for a moment, wondering whether the truth or a lie would goover better. I decided to go with the truth. "Hmmm… I think you could be,if you wanted to.""Are you frightened of me now?" The smile vanished, and his heavenly facewas suddenly serious.

  "No." But I answered too quickly. The smile returned.

  "So, now are you going to tell me about your family?" I asked to distracthim. "It's got to be a much more interesting story than mine."He was instantly cautious. "What do you want to know?""The Cullens adopted you?" I verified.

  "Yes."I hesitated for a moment. "What happened to your parents?""They died many years ago." His tone was matter-of-fact.

  "I'm sorry," I mumbled.

  "I don't really remember them that clearly. Carlisle and Esme have beenmy parents for a long time now.""And you love them." It wasn't a question. It was obvious in the way hespoke of them.

  "Yes." He smiled. "I couldn't imagine two better people." "You're very lucky.""I know I am.""And your brother and sister?"He glanced at the clock on the dashboard.

  "My brother and sister, and Jasper and Rosalie for that matter, are goingto be quite upset if they have to stand in the rain waiting for me.""Oh, sorry, I guess you have to go." I didn't want to get out of the car.

  "And you probably want your truck back before Chief Swan gets home, soyou don't have to tell him about the Biology incident." He grinned at me.

  "I'm sure he's already heard. There are no secrets in Forks." I sighed.

  He laughed, and there was an edge to his laughter.

  "Have fun at the beach… good weather for sunbathing." He glanced out atthe sheeting rain.

  "Won't I see you tomorrow?""No. Emmett and I are starting the weekend early.""What are you going to do?" A friend could ask that, right? I hoped thedisappointment wasn't too apparent in my voice.

  "We're going to be hiking in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, just south ofRainier."I remembered Charlie had said the Cullens went camping frequently.

  "Oh, well, have fun." I tried to sound enthusiastic. I don't think Ifooled him, though. A smile was playing around the edges of his lips.

  "Will you do something for me this weekend?" He turned to look mestraight in the face, utilizing the full power of his burning gold eyes.

  I nodded helplessly.

  "Don't be offended, but you seem to be one of those people who justattract accidents like a magnet. So… try not to fall into the ocean orget run over or anything, all right?" He smiled crookedly.

  The helplessness had faded as he spoke. I glared at him.

  "I'll see what I can do," I snapped as I jumped out into the rain. Islammed the door behind me with excessive force.

  He was still smiling as he drove away.